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The Airmen - P/O J E Sulman

 

John Edward Sulman, from Hertfordshire, was born in December 1914 and joined the RAFVR around November 1938 as an Airman u/t Pilot.

Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his training and was posted to 607 Squadron at Usworth in early July 1940.

He claimed a Do17 destroyed on 15th September.

 

Above: Sulman must have worked for Coutts Bank as this photo appears courtesy of their memorial webpage.

 

On 18th December 1940 Sulman was posted to 96 Squadron which was about to form at Cranage but returned to 607 after a short stay. In June 1941 he served as an instructor at 53 OTU Heston and then went to 238 Squadron in the Western Desert.

He failed to return from a sweep in the El Adem area on 23rd November 1941.

His body was later recovered and buried at Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya.

His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde (below).

 

 

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A PILGRIMAGE TO NORTH AFRICA

It must be a rare experience when a wish held for 57 years is granted, but so it happened for my sister and myself. A small cruise ship planned a tour in November calling at Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. We applied to join her. Every time a crisis arose over Lockerbie we feared that visas would not be granted. In the event our passports were only handed to us at Heathrow as we embarked. One would-be passenger was refused a visa.

Twenty seven passengers including three Desert War veterans and their wives, my sister and myself and our husbands, together with an excellent lecturer embarked in Malta and sailed for Tunisia. We were well briefed on the tragedy of Carthage though the visit was cancelled due to delays. We visited the fine museum in Tripoli and the extensive site of Leptis Magna.

These were not however our main objective. Our brother, John, flew his Hurricane from Tangmere in September 1940, up and down the Sussex Coast that he knew so well, during the Battle of Britain. He was posted missing in Cyrenaica in November 1941 and is buried in the British War Cemetery 25 miles west of Tobruk. No member of the family had ever been able to visit the graveside. A series of difficulties again delayed our ship. As we approached Tobruk it was clear we would not arrive until evening, too late we feared for our planned visit.

At this point a small miracle seemed to begin. The sun was low in the sky as we approached. The pilot was waiting for us, landing formalities were waived and a minibus with security outriders drove us westward along the road into the semi-desert. The sun set and a red glow covered the sky. It was dark as we entered the open gate. Groups of cemetery officials, police and security stood around. We were conducted to our brother's grave. By torchlight we read the inscription on the stone, laid our wreaths and stepped back. In those few silent minutes we all felt peace, rest, consolation and gratitude for a life's commission fulfilled. As we moved away and quietly thanked our Libyan hosts I believe all had felt an understanding and a unity.

In England it was Remembrance Sunday.

Joyce M Beazley November 1998

 

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Above cemetery images courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project www.twgpp.org

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